Sonlight’s Exploring God’s World Pre-K program for ages four and five offers a relaxed approach to learning based on activities, picture books, and interactive discussions. Sonlight’s Pre-Kindergarten Package includes all of the resources that I describe in this review. This package covers readiness skills for both reading and math while it also teaches about science, world cultures, and the Bible. You don’t need anything else!
For those with pre-kindergarten children who are ready to begin to learn to read, Sonlight offers the Pre-Kindergarten program with Grade K Readers. (Click here for my review of the Sonlight K Phonics Program.) All except the resources used for teaching reading are the same in both packages.
The Exploring God’s World Pre-K Instructor’s Guide organizes the program for you. It has charts with weekly schedules that show you at a glance what to do in each of the books or resources. Brief notes add explanations when needed along with lists of required materials and optional activities.
The Developing the Early Learner series of four books plays an important role within the program. They are used to develop academic readiness skills, which are called “perceptual readiness” skills in these books. Utilizing many different styles of activity pages, these 62-page books work on perceptual skills under the headings visual, auditory, motor, and comprehension. The activity pages comprise the bulk of each of these books, but there are a few explanatory pages at the front of each book and a few pages at the back with auditory scripts, instructions for particular pages, and answer keys. The carefully designed student activity pages strategically teach skills such as auditory discrimination of sounds in words such as form and from; sequencing events; letter and number recognition; understanding the meanings of prepositions such as under, on, and over; grouping items that are alike; drawing with continuous lines; and completing mazes.
Quite a few read-aloud books are used in this program since reading aloud to children is one of the most critical activities for building a foundation that helps children become successful readers and learners. The read-aloud books include titles such as A Treasury of Mother Goose Rhymes, Uncle Wiggly’s Story Book, A Child’s Book of Art, and Milly-Molly-Mandy Story Book. The American Tall Tales CD that is included with the program gives parents a small break from doing all of the reading themselves.
Other books in the program that teach subject area content will also be read aloud to children. For language arts, you will use Dr. Seuss’s ABC and First Thousand Words. (If you choose the package with Phonics K, you get other resources in place of these two books.) Among the eight books to be read for science are The Berenstain Bears’ Big Book of Science and Nature, The Year at Maple Hill Farm, How Do You Lift a Lion?, and Why Do Tigers Have Stripes? The six books use for learning about world cultures are People, Things People Do, Stories from Africa, The God’s Must Be Angry, Then and Now, and New Toes for Tia. For Bible instruction, parents will read from 101 Favorite Stories from the Bible, and children will work on a Bible memory verse each week.
There are usually six or more activities suggested for each week, many of which tie to the books you are reading. For example, when you read the nursery rhyme “Old King Cole” from A Treasury of Mother Goose Rhymes, an optional activity has children dress up like a king. It suggests rolling up aluminum foil like a snake, then stapling it to form a circle-shaped crown. When you read the section about doctors in Things People Do, it suggests teaching children the names of parts of their bodies and discussing personal care such as brushing teeth, washing hands, and combing hair.
Math is not taught as a separate subject, but there are activities for math readiness in the instructor’s guide such as those for learning counting, comparison, and one-to-one correspondence. Children learn to recognize numbers in the Developing the Early Learner books.
You will need many items for all of the activities, but most can be readily found around the house. A list near the front of the book alerts you to a number of items that will be used frequently throughout the year. Among the items on that list are basic art supplies (e.g., paper, crayons, scissors, and glue), a pedal-driven riding toy, tweezers, tongs, a clothespin, stuffed toys, small toy cars, a flashlight, pennies, buttons, and a globe or a map. Other items are listed with each specific activity within the lesson plans.
As you have probably surmised, the program needs to be presented by a parent, and it does require a good amount of time for the reading aloud and activities. However, you can choose which books and activities to use if you are short on time. Also, you can easily include your other children as you read and discuss the books. The lesson plans sometimes suggest incorporating learning into everyday activities. For instance, page 37 in the instructor’s guide recommends that when you go to the grocery store, you ask your child to point out items that start with the letter A.
The Exploring God’s World Pre-K program is a wonderful way to teach pre-kindergartners using real books rather than a heavy academic approach. Both the content and the design make this is a very family-friendly program!